Chris Ewokor once wrote, “To be addressed as a Mr., Mrs. or Ms in Nigerian social circles means you are a no body. To be a mover or shaker you need to be a chief; or to at least hold a doctorate. Many prominent Nigerians including serving and past political leaders hold one title or another – either traditional, educational, professional or religious. And the trend for acquiring titles is not limited to the political elite. Now you even have armed robbers, corrupt politicians and all sorts of people being chiefs.”
This misconception of titles is not limited to Nigerians only; Africans love titles. To an African title hold a sense of mystery and attract attention. Zambians are also joining the culture of titles. The first president (KK) and second president Fredrick Chiluba are addressed as doctors. But without academic backup. The third president also earned himself the same title. I assume before Mr. Banda leaves office, he will be addressed as doctor. A younger generation in the names of Nevers Mumba, Saviour Chishimba and others are also following this vanity.
People even add things like Mr. “Engineer” to their name; it’s a kind of pomposity. Nelson Mandela, the “Iron lady” Margret Thatcher and President Bush Senior and many others have honorary doctorates; but are never addressed as “Dr.” The reason is honorary degree can not be used as an academic paper which carries title and privileges.
These titles are so pronounced in Zambia because many media institutions are Government controlled, the journalists who work in these institutions serve the interest of the politicians and addressing such as Mr. will seem demeaning. Yet those in private media just play monkey see, monkey do.
This phenomenon of title obsession has not left out the church in Zambia. Few years ago, we had pastors. With time pockets of bishops were ordained. Eventually, apostle and prophets mushroomed everywhere. Biblical and theologically it is correct to go by these titles where necessary. (Ephesians 4: 11-12). Nowadays however pastors are no longer prophets, bishops or apostles. These have become lower titles; the clergy are now going for “Dr.” or “Rev, Doctor).
A named Bishop of Lusaka for two years struggled to raise $2,000 to buy his honorary doctorate but a few months ago he got his paper. But academically, the Bishop is working on his bachelors. His sister a pastor as well goes by “doctor ” without academic credentials.
What are these men and women of God up to? This is a deception at its best, who is fooling who? Why should a man called of God add a phony title to that which is sacred? If doctorate title is desired why not go to school? These preachers love praise from men (John 12:43). They love to be called by prestigious titles.
Jesus rebuked Pharisees and scribes for they loved titles and desired attention from people. He said, “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted”. His disciples were not to seek to be called rabbi and were forbidden to use the word father indiscriminately. The general teaching is clear. They were not to seek man-exalting titles such as (Dr), rabbi, father, or minister to gain the recognition of men. Disciples of Christ should not exalt themselves but should seek to serve others and leave the exalting to God Himself.